Adopt a plan for contagious and environmental mastitis

Mastitis prevention practices crucial ahead antibiotic supply reductions

Chief vets are urging farmers to be more diligent with mastitis prevention practices due to supply problems with seven key intramammary antibiotic products for lactating cows.  

“The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) has recently been informed that more than half of the lactating cow intramammary antibiotics on the market have been withdrawn due to falling outside of quality standards,” explains Alison Clark, Progiene Business Unit Manager. “While VMD has said it will work with veterinarians to ensure animal health needs are met if the remaining products are not suitable, delays in treatment can cause significant consequences for dairy businesses.”

Along with compromising animal welfare, costs associated with mastitis carry a huge financial burden. Reports show mastitis costs the UK dairy industry £144 million each year, with the average case costing £200.

“Mastitis has a huge economic impact on dairy farms. Associated costs are due to a decrease in milk yields and fertility, extra labour, treatments, penalties for high somatic cell counts and the dumping of milk due to antibiotic usage. It can also increase replacement and culling costs since infection will affect yield for future lactations,” explains Ms Clark. “The national average is 40 cases of mastitis per 100 cows – that’s a total cost of £8,000 per year.”

A plan for prevention

To safeguard their dairy herds, Ms Clark recommends producers adopt a comprehensive prevention plan for contagious and environmental mastitis. This includes:

  1. Create and follow treatment protocols
  2. Record all clinical cases
  3. Assess housing management and hygiene
  4. Conduct an annual milking machine test
  5. Pre dipping with an effective, quick acting biocide
  6. Use a post milking teat disinfectant, preferably a barrier.
  7. Allow cows to stand for 20 minutes post milking to allow teats to close properly
  8. Consult with vet regarding use of dry cow therapy
  9. Cull chronic carriers

While barrier and post milking teat dips are essential to kill mastitis causing pathogens, Ms Clark says producers should select a chlorine dioxide based product like UdderGold Platinum rather than iodine dips.

“Maximum pathogen killing power for chlorine dioxide is 10-20 seconds, compared to 30-60 seconds for iodine. As dairy producers know, it is essential to minimise prep time as much as possible to avoid potential issues with a cow’s oxytocin reflex to drop milk,” she says. “Chlorine dioxide also has a 12 hour killing period to protect for longer between milking, while iodine only lasts for 20 minutes. This extended period of protection not only safeguards an individual cow, but also her herd mates from contagious mastitis pathogens.”

UdderGold Platinum, which is the only VMD licensed teat dip in the UK has proven to be highly effective at reducing new intramammary infections, with a 77% reduction rate in three clinical trials in the USA and UK.

“This chlorine dioxide product allows producers to take a belt and braces approach to killing a broad spectrum of pathogens like bacteria and yeasts to prevent contagious and environmental mastitis cases,” explains Ms Clark. “With a reduction rate of 77% which costs £200 per case, the monetary benefit is £34.60 per cow per year, even when taking the cost of production into account.”

Safeguard of antibiotics

Along with protecting herd welfare and production, stepping up prevention practice is crucial to reducing antibiotic usage in the dairy industry.

“Antibiotics used to treat mastitis are third generation, which means they are used in human medicines. There is a huge worry about the impact of human health if they become resistant,” stresses Ms Clark. “We have a duty of care to make sure we are using antibiotics responsibly and implementing preventative practice to reduce usage as much as possible.”